Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mary and Matthew

I stood on the crest of a moonlit hill, looking down at the sea of graves that separated me from my lover and I asked myself a question.
Is this worth it?
I didn't know, so I hopped the low iron fence and started across the cemetery that served as a short-cut to Mary's house.

Our house, but not for long.

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I met Mary when I was 19 and she was 30. It was at a club that no longer exists. She was short, auburn-haired and rather plain-looking; a brooding, neurotic drug dealer with a violent temper and a half-wild wolfhound named Gwen. My kinda gal.

I don't recall what was said when we first met-the music was horrible and loud- our first words were probably: "what? huh?" , but she grabbed my hand, pulled me out of the crowd and announced her intentions very clearly. We walked to her nearby house and , three or four months later, she decided that I should move in with her. I was living in a Dude House at the time, so I was ready to accept this offer. I told my roommates to rent my room to the next Dude in line and my belongings started making their way to Mary's home, one backpack at a time. Neither of us had a vehicle, but I didn't own much that wouldn't fit into a rucksack, so the move was made one day at a time, over the course of a month.

In the 30 days before I moved in I started not noticing a number of things that I should have noticed...Mary, for instance, had plenty of her own cocaine- yet mine was disappearing at an alarming rate- and Mary, who was a cook at a fancy hotel during the day, suddenly started working a lot of nights- but with no extra pay to show for it. In fact, the more she 'worked', the more money she had to borrow from me and the more of my blow vanished. Hmmm.
But I was 19 , stupid and unwilling to accept the fact that my girlfriend was trying to destroy me. And herself.

One afternoon I noticed a strange new painting in her living room. There was something familiar... had I seen it before?. I asked Mary about it. She gave me a curious answer:
"Oh, that. My friend stole that from the Museum. I'm holding onto it for him until things cool down."
It started to dawn on me that not only was my girlfriend a drug dealer, she was also a criminal.

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The day before the move was complete, Mary called me at a friend's house.

We need to talk. Now.

Why?

I am in trouble. We are in trouble.

Are you calling from jail?

No. Just come over now. We won't see each other again until Sunday and this can't wait.

When I reached the other side of the graveyard, I crawled through a well-used hole in the chain link fence and stood at the end of Mary's street. I made a slow, circling approach, looking for police or FBI vehicles...the neighborhood looked normal. Mary didn't.

Mary looked insane. Her normally narrow eyes were wide with cocaine intensity as she told me the news: She was pregnant. I thought we'd been careful, but...

Wow. I was only 19 and I had some serious misgivings about making a lifetime investment with a woman who was revealing herself to be more and more dangerous every day. I was terrified, my mind was wrapped in tentacles of fear and doubt...this wasn't happening...couldn't be...oh, my God...
Suddenly, I knew.

Am I the father?, I asked.

I don't think so,
she replied.

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With those words still ringing through my head, I found myself on the squalid basement doorstep of my friend Matt, who lived nearby. Matt was a junkie and he had knowledge that I needed.

"Matt, I need you to show me how to shoot up."
I threw a bag of coke on his table.

"Whoa...why? Are you sure? What's going on?"

I started telling him the whole sorry tale, but he stopped me.

"I know", he said. " She has been coming over here with that guy and shooting up. I didn't know it was your stash. Sorry."

"Wh...why didn't you tell me?"

"What would you have done?"

I thought about that question. "I probably would have hit you", I answered.

"You see?", said Matt.

"Well, fuck that bitch...just show me how to use the fucking needle and I'll be on my way- you can keep that bag." I had plenty of coke, more than enough to OD, which was what I wanted.

Matt looked at me and for a moment the jaundice seemed to lift from his eyes.

"No. I won't help you with this. Look at my life- is this what you want?"

As if on cue, a large rat crawled out of his kitchen sink and into a cupboard. It acted as if it knew the route well.

"Allan", he continued," nothing is worth this. Mary is a lost cause. I am a lost cause. Don't be a lost cause. Don't get into this shit...I will not help you do this. Put your coke back in your pocket and stick it up your nose or up your ass, but you are not sticking it in your arm, not here."

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I didn't see Matt again for over ten years; I assumed that he had died, but he hadn't. During an afternoon stroll , I passed a house and Matt was perched on the porch, painting the windows. There was a ladder leaning against the side of the building.

"Climb on up!"

So I did. Matt had been clean for years and he looked great. He was getting married- or maybe he already had- I forget the details, but his life had turned completely around. Things were looking up for him.

I was doing pretty good too...I hadn't done coke for years and the drinking hadn't caught up with me yet. I was enjoying life. It was nice to see Matt. I had something to tell him.

"Matt", I said, "you saved my life back then. I never told you that, but you did. I don't know how to repay you."

"You don't", he told me.

"You don't?"

"No", he tried to explain. "I didn't do that for you. I did that for me. You don't owe me anything."

I didn't quite understand that at the time, but I do now.

It's never too late to say thank you.

Thank you.

11 comments:

yellowdog granny said...

great story...and I really know where you're coming from...when I was doing drugs I had my friends worried and so they told all the dealers I knew that I had a severe heart problem and if I did any drugs I could die of a heart attack...so no one would sell me drugs..so I sorta quit..didn't do any more drugs because no one would sell it to me..didn't find out the truth for about 10 years...I thank them all the time...

beth said...

I remember that wolf. It wanted to kill me. It was a freaky thing.

I wonder whatever happened to J Cook - the guy that actually took the painting? I remember that he was arrested, but I'm thinking got sentenced to Central State instead of jail. He was among those of us that were on the edge of psychosis back then.

My oh my. Remembrances like this help us to see things in perspective. They make me want to shout Thank You! That I'm alive, that you're alive, that my family is healthy, that I have a roof over my head, etc. etc. etc. Thank you Thank you Thank you!

Allan said...

JS- We got lucky. Here's a moment of silence for those who didn't make it.

Absent Friends said...

.

Allan said...

Beth- She tried to sic that beast on me once...but it liked me and it just sat and whined. Whew!
Looking back, I wonder how any of us made it...thank you for being here!

billy pilgrim said...

there's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes...

i had a high school friend who was the one of school dealers. pounds not ounces. he cleaned up his act and got his b.a. a few months after getting his degree he underestimated the strength of some heroin and died.

it's a fine line we walk.

Sling said...

One day,back in'99,I looked around at the way I was living,and the people I was hanging out with.People all too much like Mary..
I decided that when I got rid of this last ounce of meth,I'd quit dealing.
I was arrested 3 days later...Too late.
I haven't touched drugs since.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Good story Allan.

angel said...

fork allan...
incredible...
honestly- i am grateful to matt for doing what he did for himself!
wow

more cowbell said...

Wow. Thanks for the perspective jolt, Allan. I'm glad you're out the other side of that rabbit hole.

Auld Hat said...

Crucial fiction indeed.